Recent Pittsburg Post-Gazette Article States that Caffeine Powder Overdose Leads to Two Deaths, Parker Waichman LLP Comments

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Following at least two deaths in 2014, federal regulators, one United States senator, and a trade organization recommend consumers avoid caffeine powder, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

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“It is clear that this product can be life-threatening, even in small doses,” says Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman LLP. “

Parker Waichman LLP, a national law firm representing patients injured by consumer products, drugs, and medical devices, comments on concerns over pure caffeine powder. According to a January 20, 2015 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report, at least two deaths in 2014 have been linked to caffeine powder overdoses. In one case, an 18-year-old resident of LaGrange, Ohio died last May, one week before his high school graduation, allegedly as a result of caffeine overdose. A similar overdose occurred a month later in Alpharetta, Georgia, killing a 24-year old man. These tragic deaths raised concerns about the dangers of easily overdosing on caffeine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat-Ohio), and the Council for Responsible Nutrition are advising against the use of caffeine powder in light of the two deaths and are calling for a ban or regulation of retail sales. Pure 100 percent caffeine powder may be lethal in small doses; one teaspoon is equivalent to 25 to 30 cups of coffee, which is likely life-threatening.

According to Parker Waichman LLP, consumers should be aware of the dangers of caffeine powder. “It is clear that this product can be life-threatening, even in small doses,” says Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman LLP. “As a firm that represents numerous individuals injured by defective products, we are looking to spread awareness about this emerging issue.”

Michael M. Landa, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition indicated that some people may overlook the dosage recommendations for caffeine powder because it is marketed as a source of energy rather than as a stimulant, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Senators Brown and Richard Blumenthal (Democrat-Connecticutt) have pushed the FDA about regulating caffeine powder, which “should be off the shelves,” they said; the senators may introduce legislation to ban retail sales. “If it is added to energy drinks, it should be added at the [production] plant,” Senator Brown said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There is no legitimate use for this stuff, and there is no business why (sic) it is sold retail.”

Since powdered caffeine is marketed as a dietary supplement, the product is not regulated. Powdered caffeine is unlike the caffeine added to soda and other food products, noted Parker Waichman.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association for the supplement industry, has also expressed concerns about caffeine powder. “Even a quarter teaspoon can present health risks to users,” said council president and chief executive officer (CEO) Steve Mister, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We believe the FDA already has authority to act in this case and remove it from the market if it causes unreasonable risk and illness. Given case histories I’m familiar with, I think the FDA can use its authority to take enforcement action to restrict the product.”

Caffeine overdose or toxicity may lead to serious reactions, notes Parker Waichman, much more intense that symptoms seen with consuming too much caffeine from coffee, tea, or sodas, including:

  •     Rapid or erratic heartbeat
  •     Seizures
  •     Vomiting
  •     Diarrhea
  •     Disorientation

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette indicated that 5,238 calls were made to the American Association of Poison Control Center for caffeine overdoses from energy drinks between 2010 and 2013. A little over half of these calls involved children ages five years and younger. Dr. Michael J. Lynch, medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center said that 370 calls to his center last year were related to caffeine exposure and toxicity. “Symptoms include pain in the abdomen, vomiting that doesn’t stop, with shakiness that’s pronounced and patients who are very agitated,” he said. In large quantities, caffeine may cause seizures and abnormal heart rhythm, leading to a rise and fall of blood pressure. As a result, the brain and other organs do not receive enough oxygen which can obviously be fatal.

Parker Waichman LLP offers free lawsuit consultations to consumers who believe they, or their loved ones, have been injured due to powdered caffeine products. If you or someone you know purchased a powdered caffeine product and may have been injured, please visit the firm's Drug Injury Page at Free case evaluations are also available by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).

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